When I had a spinal cord injury at 18, I lost bowel and bladder function. I will never forget having my legs propped up open on my hospital beds and two nurses leaning in with a mirror trying to teach me how to self catheterise. The whole thing felt strange and medical. As a young woman just finding my independence in the world, I wondered what this meant for me. But then, slowly over the coming months, as I went out with friends, went to parties, and had friends help me find accessible places I could catheterise, and they were slowly exposed to this new way of peeing, I realised they didn’t care at all. This process that I had been worried and embarrassed about was no big deal to them, and the truth was, it was only shameful because I was holding onto that shame. So I learnt to let go of it. The thing about shame is, it only exists if you let it.
Shame lives in the shadows, as a secret, but we forget that we have the power to bring it into the light. To be courageous, I think, is to lean into the uncomfortable, to be so confident in yourself that you don’t feel the need to hide any part of yourself. People will treat you how you show them you deserve to be treated, and it’s the same with any part of your disability. If you can talk about it openly, without shame or apology, I think it makes it easy for the people around you to do the same, to realise it’s not scary or taboo but just a normal part of your life.
Lean into your shame, and it’s not about finding other things about yourself you’re not ashamed of; it’s about examining where that shame comes from and bringing it into the light. To stop hiding parts of yourself is the ultimate liberation. Be triumphant about what you deal with every day, not ashamed. Never forget the power is in your hands to define yourself and everything you go through. No one can make you ashamed of something that you have already accepted and embraced, and that is your power and your grace. Shame lives in the shadows, and it only stays there when we don’t talk about it, when we choose to hide parts of ourselves. But when we fully embrace even the least glamorous parts of ourselves, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. And together, I believe, we can get rid of the shadows, have open conversations and realise that maybe we are not as alone in what we’re going through as we may have once thought.
Independently You have this same outlook, designed to help you be confident and dignified in all you do. Shop the range of incontinence products designed to enable your independence on our website, including our Texi range that’s an accessible option for your daily needs.By Pieta Bouma